Centre for Global Health Policy

Gene-environment studies in podoconiosis

Dr Gail Davey holds a Wellcome Trust University Award to explore genetic and mineral triggers of podoconiosis, a neglected tropical disease affecting at least 4 million people across tropical Africa.

Although strong epidemiological evidence links the disease with barefoot farming in areas of red volcanic clay soil, the precise mineral trigger remains unknown. Dr Davey, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, is working with geologists in the School of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University, and with mineralogists at the Natural History Museum, UK, to characterise the trigger particle. Observation and earlier segregation analysis also suggest a strong heritable component to the disease (siblings of patients are five times as likely to develop disease as the general population). The second part of this study is designed to test whether 'hot' areas of the genome identified as linked to podoconiosis among Ethiopian patients are also responsible for disease susceptibility in Cameroon. Dr Davey is collaborating with Prof Samuel Wanji (Buea University and Research Foundation for Tropical and Endemic Disease), Prof Melanie Newport (BSMS) and Prof Charles Rotimi (National Human Genome Institute, NIH, US) over this second piece of the podoconiosis aetiology puzzle.